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Pearls, Gorilla Glue and golf balls … the things pets eat

It is not unusual for a vet to find a “foreign body” in a dog’s digestive tract

We had a funny conversation in the clinic the other day about foreign bodies.

A “foreign body” is an object, like a bone, that an animal eats which then gets stuck in the digestive tract. Dogs are the usual culprits, but I have had a few incidents with cats too.

They don’t always need surgery to fix the problem. I saw a lovely golden retriever a few years back who went off his food suddenly.

His owner had a BBQ with friends the night before and this naughty pup had gotten into the trash and eaten a whole corn cob. I could clearly feel it in his intestine, so we popped him on fluids overnight and he pooped it out the next day, feeling fresh as a daisy.

My colleague, Dr Erin, told me a funny story about a dog she had seen who ate a string of pearls. They went right through his digestive tract and were pooped out intact. (I’m not sure if the owner ever wore them again.)

More often than not though, we need to perform a surgery to remove whatever has been eaten. The staff play a game of “guess the foreign body” as the surgery starts and everyone gets a turn.

I’ve seen lots of toys. Kong toys (the ones that you fill with food) are a common culprit, as are stringy tug toys which tend to get chewed up and swallowed.

Dr Lianna removed a dolphin toy from a dog stomach, and I found a little toy soldier once, ready to do battle in the small intestine.

Balls make a great foreign body. I operated on a lovely black lab who lived by a golf course a few years back, and removed over twenty golf balls from her stomach.

The funny thing about her was that she had eaten a full meal the night before and was perfectly fine.

I guess that last golf ball was just one too many. Once I removed the golf balls she went home happy, healthy and about 10lbs lighter.

Socks are a frequent offender. Some dogs just love socks, and often times they will pass through the digestive tract without issue. But on occasion they do get stuck.

I removed a lovely green and red Christmas sock with tinsel on it one wintry afternoon, and the nurse shouted “ho ho ho” as it came out.

The post-op reveal can make the owners blush, especially when we find black lacy underwear, or Union Jack boxers.

Cats tend to be more careful with what they eat, but they do love a needle and thread.

Luckily needles show up clearly on radiographs as they are made of metal so it’s easy to find them. Dr Erin removed a ball of forty hair ties from a kitty cat’s stomach. Goodness knows what made her eat that.

We all have many a story about fish hooks. I had a very lucky Jack Russell terrier who ate a hook, line and sinker.

The bait stopped the sharp hook piercing the stomach and I was able to remove it all easily once I had cut the line coming out of her mouth. On a similar note, I had a boxer who had attempted to eat a fish hook and gotten it stuck in his upper lip.

The silly pup then tried to remove it by pawing at his face with his front paw, which also became stuck in the fish hook.

He arrived at the clinic on three legs with his forth leg attached to his face. We quickly got him untangled and he made a full recovery.

The worst foreign body I ever saw though was a lab who had eaten a tube of Gorilla Glue.

It swelled up and filled his entire stomach and I had to painstakingly remove it piece by piece.

After a long surgery and a few days’ recovery in the clinic, he went on to live a long and happy life. Now I know why they say labradors have a stomach of iron!

Lucy Richardson graduated from Edinburgh University in 2005. She started CedarTree Vets in August 2012 with her husband Mark. They live at the practice with their two children, Ray and Stella, and their dog, two cats and two guinea pigs. Dr Lucy is also the FEI national head veterinarian for Bermuda

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Published April 28, 2022 at 7:48 am (Updated April 28, 2022 at 7:48 am)

Pearls, Gorilla Glue and golf balls … the things pets eat

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